EPA

Fri, 2012-06-29 07:00Farron Cousins
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What To Expect When You’re Electing: Part 1 – What’s At Stake

Environmental and energy issues became one of the central issues of the 2008 U.S. presidential election. While the economy itself took center stage, energy issues were right behind it, being pushed by the insufferable chant of “Drill baby drill.” In the four years that have followed, the U.S. has seen a boom in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the worst oil spill in our history, skyrocketing (and then plummeting) gas prices, a disastrous oil pipeline plan that threatens the safety of our aquifers, and a Republican-led assault on environmental safety standards.

With all of these issues weighing heavily in the mind of the American public, there’s no doubt that both energy policy and environmental concerns will once again play an important role in the 2012 election cycle.

To help educate those voters concerned about the environmental policies and histories of the 2012 candidates, we’re putting together a multi-part series “What to Expect When You’re Electing,” and we will discuss the statements, policies, positions, and industry money received by both major presidential candidates, as well as those seeking lower offices.

Wed, 2012-06-27 12:10Chris Mooney
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A Court's Scientific Smackdown: The D.C. Circuit Trashes Science Deniers on Global Warming and the EPA

Tomorrow, we may see a court—the highest in the land–flout precedent for partisan ends in its ruling on President Obama’s signature health care law.

However, in the meantime, we can rejoice that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit understands how to weigh complicated science-policy issues without partisanship or bias.

The D.C. Circuit recently came down with a long expected ruling on an industry and state attorneys general challenge to the EPA’s Endangerment Finding, as well as a number of other actions regarding greenhouse gas regulations. These representatives of red states (including Ken Cuccinelli) and affected corporations argued that EPA was in the wrong to determine that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare, and thus must be regulated. Rather, they argued, EPA had come up with an arbitrary and capricious reading of climate science—and was set to unleash an onerous regulatory regime on this misguided basis.

To put it simply, for this charge to be true, all the experts on global warming would have to be wrong. Because that’s precisely who EPA relied on—including the IPCC, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the National Academy of Sciences.

What the D.C. Circuit opinion does, basically, is to show that EPA is absolutely right to trust the experts, and to ignore the deniers, in deciding what the science of global warming says. That makes the D.C. Circuit opinion a resounding defense of science and its relevance to policy—in many ways on a par with other such legal classics, like Judge Jones’ decision in the Dover evolution trial.

Perhaps most quotable is the court’s devastating retort to the idea that EPA shouldn’t be relying on expert scientific assessments to make its judgment about whether humans are causing global warming:

Thu, 2012-06-21 11:46Carol Linnitt
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Howarth and Ingraffea: Gas Industry Fracking Study So Biased it is 'Almost Useless'

Two of the largest gas industry lobbying bodies in the US, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and American Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), released a ‘study’ earlier this month claiming methane emissions from natural gas production to be 50 percent lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 estimates.  However, according to a joint statement prepared by professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea and released by the Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) this week, the study is nothing more than industry-purchased propaganda that does not adhere to basic standards for scientific accuracy and consistency.  

The industry report, entitled “Characterizing Pivotal Sources of Methane Emissions from Unconventional Natural Gas Production,” was commissioned by API and ANGA and co-authored by the URS Corporation and The LEVON Group. The report’s findings, pounced upon by gas industry advocates, like the virulent astroturf group Energy In Depth, were based upon API and ANGA survey responses and, according to Howarth, Ingraffea and the PSE, therein lies their downfall.

Here is a brief outline of the study’s ‘fatal flaws’ as outlined in the PSE joint statement:
Mon, 2012-06-18 12:56Farron Cousins
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Dirty Energy Industry Sues EPA Over Clean Air Initiatives

In a blatant insult to the millions of Americans who would breathe easier under the EPA’s air pollution controls, the dirty energy industry, along with other groups, has sued the EPA to stop regulating toxic industrial air pollution. The Center for American Progress has the story:
  

Two essential Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, regulations to protect children, seniors, the infirm, and others from air pollution are under attack from the coal industry and many utilities.

Last year the EPA issued two rules that would reduce smog, acid rain, and airborne toxic chemicals: the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.

On July 6, 2011, the EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution—two of the main ingredients in acid rain and smog—from power plants in upwind states that were polluting downwind states. An interactive EPA map demonstrates that pollution doesn’t stop at state borders.

Then, on December 16, 2011, the EPA finalized the first standards to reduce mercury, arsenic, lead, and other toxic air pollution 21 years after controls on such pollution became law.

Today more than 130 coal companies, electric utilities, trade associations, other polluting industries, and states are suing the EPA in federal court to obliterate, undermine, or delay these essential health protection standards. A parallel effort is underway to block the mercury reduction rule in the Senate, which is scheduled to vote on it this week. This CAP investigation found that these utilities were responsible for 33,000 pounds of mercury and 6.5 billion pounds of smog and acid rain pollution in 2010 alone.

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The industry has been actively working to undermine the work of the EPA for years, and this lawsuit comes on the heels of a package of legislation recently introduced by House Republicans that would gut the EPA of most of their regulatory authority over air pollution emissions, including mercury emissions.

Sun, 2012-06-17 08:00Farron Cousins
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Media Helps Sell The Myth Of “Job Killing Regulations”

Repeat something often enough, and it becomes true. That phrase has been a common theme among think tanks and politicians for decades. And sadly, there is a lot of truth behind that statement.

But the claim itself relies on the belief that people will not seek out the truth for themselves; that they won’t take the time to verify, fact check, or question the official story given by a media outlet or elected official.

And when that lack of follow up and lack of questioning occurs, then the lie does in fact become the truth.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the mainstream media has been all too willing to echo the “job killer” talking point for industry. This isn’t a new phenomenon, either.

According to a new, joint report from Occidental College and the University of Northern Iowa, the media has been pushing the myth of “job killing regulations” for nearly 30 years. In fact, the report shows that the myth has been pushed without any verification and without any honesty behind the claims.

Wed, 2012-06-13 05:52Farron Cousins
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House Republicans Go All In With Dirty Energy Industry Bonanza Legislation

The dirty energy industry might experience Christmas in June if House Republicans have their way. Earlier this month, members of the House Energy Action Team (HEAT) unveiled a “package” of legislation that includes numerous bills that would give the industry everything that they’ve dreamt of for years. The legislative initiative, known as the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, would grant almost unbridled access to federal lands for oil drilling and strips the EPA of their ability to properly regulate industry.

From a House Energy and Commerce Committee press release:
  

Tue, 2012-05-29 14:31Farron Cousins
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Fracking Industry Trying To Keep Doctors Silent About Chemical Dangers

Polls conducted in recent years show that close to 80% of Americans trust their doctors. They believe, rightly so, that their personal doctors are looking out for their patients’ best interests, and that doctors will do what is necessary to get patients healthy. But what happens when a doctor is legally bound to keep vital health information away from not just their patients, but from the general public? Under new laws being pushed by the fracking industry, we’ll soon have an answer to that question.

Earlier this year, Mother Jones reported on a new law in Pennsylvania that allows doctors to have access to the secret fracking formulas that the dirty energy industry is pumping into the ground, but they are legally required to keep that information private. From the Mother Jones report:
  

There is good reason to be curious about exactly what's in those fluids. A 2010 congressional investigation revealed that Halliburton and other fracking companies had used 32 million gallons of diesel products, which include toxic chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene, in the fluids they inject into the ground. Low levels of exposure to those chemicals can trigger acute effects like headaches, dizziness, and drowsiness, while higher levels of exposure can cause cancer.

Pennsylvania law states that companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else—not even the person they're trying to treat.
 
Wed, 2012-05-16 09:58Farron Cousins
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Is The EPA Covering Up Oil Dispersant Dangers?

Less than two years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told BP that they had to stop using the highly dangerous and potentially toxic oil dispersant Corexit on the oil that was spewing from a blown out wellhead at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. BP refused, and the EPA took no action.

But this week, the EPA has told us all that there is absolutely nothing to worry about, and that Corexit is essentially “non-toxic.”

Those of us living along the Gulf Coast would all love to breathe a huge sigh of relief, but we’re too busy choking on the toxic air that has been causing “mystery respiratory illnesses” for two years now.

But still, the EPA released a report earlier this month that says that their testing revealed that the numerous different dispersants used in the cleanup fall into the “practically non-toxic” or “slightly toxic” category. What they mean by this is that the dispersants essentially have an equal toxicity to the oil that was released into the Gulf of Mexico.

Again, this new report runs completely contradictory to what the agency was warning us about in immediate months following the disaster. But instead of insisting that BP use equally effective, less toxic organic methods of dispersants, they went along with the oil giant and allowed them to continue pumping toxic chemicals into our waters.

Tue, 2012-05-15 11:28Farron Cousins
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FreedomWorks Creates Error-Filled Site To Accuse EPA Of "Killing Jobs"

FreedomWorks, the sister organization to the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP), has launched a new website and advertising campaign to convince American voters that the Obama administration and the EPA are out to destroy American jobs.

FreedomWorks has been instrumental in creating the Tea Party in America, bankrolling the so-called “grassroots” group and fueling their hatred against the Obama administration by spreading false information. In addition to early funding from the Kochs, FreedomWorks (formerly called Citizens for a Sound Economy) has also received funding from the tobacco industry.

The advertising campaign is prevalent on Facebook, with the ad seen above appearing on numerous user pages. But there’s a problem with the current ad – FreedomWorks didn’t take the time to check their work, resulting in the ad directing interested users to an invalid web address. Clicking on the Facebook link takes you to “EPAKillJobs.com,” instead of “EPAKillsJobs.com.” There’s no telling how many confused conservatives attempted to visit the site, only to receive an error message.

Mon, 2012-05-14 11:47Brendan DeMelle
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Oil and Gas Industry Moves to Silence Critics

Shutterstock image by iodrakon

At an industry public relations conference last year, Michael Kehs of Chesapeake Energy described a Wall Street Journal op-ed to gathered oil and gas officials, saying it pointed out the industry's “credibility problem.”

“And I’m sure some of it relates to defensiveness,” Kehs added. (MP3 Audio

Small wonder.

For years, the oil and gas industry has adopted a war-like mentality towards its critics. When confronted with problems caused by drilling and fracking, instead of acknowledging them and working to prevent more, their approach has too often been to cover up the issues while attacking any critics who make problems known publicly.

This pattern has sharply accelerated in recent months.

Earlier this month, Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional administrator for the oil-and-gas rich states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, sent his letter of resignation to Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA. Mr. Armendariz had come under heavy fire over comments he made two years ago at a local government meeting in Texas. 

In explaining his law enforcement philosophy, he analogized his agency's strategy to the early Romans, who he said would “crucify” law-breakers to make examples of them. After a video of these remarks was circulated last week by Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, who counts the oil and gas industry as one of his largest donors, a firestorm of controversy broke out.

As Media Matters pointed out, when Mr. Armendariz said he intended to make an example of offenders, he was referring only to companies that actually broke the law – but this was not enough to save his career.

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